How can hospitals deal with a PR crisis?


When you think about the important professionals involved in running a hospital, a public relations representative or team might not be at the top of your list.

In fact, when thinking of all the other important roles taking place within a hospital on a daily basis, public relations will probably come towards the bottom of your list.

You to think again, though.

The truth is, public relations are a big deal when it comes to owning and managing a successful hospital.

Keeping a favorable image of your organization will help your hospital continue experiencing growth, whether that be through retaining patients or increasing profit margins.

Without these measures in place, one bad piece of press can ruin the reputation of a hospital completely.

Not only can it make it harder to retain current clients and recruit new ones, but it can also cause a dangerous situation for staff, patients, and visitors.

Just take the Charlie Guard situation in the U.K for example, where protests outside the main doors of the hospital put staff in danger and made it difficult for visitors of sick children to access the building.

With that being said, we do understanding that public relations isn’t an easy job role to have—or control.

You need to make sure that those in charge of it know what they are doing and are competent to handle situations when crisis hits.

After all, having a PR strategy is one thing, but when a PR crisis hits, maintaining it can be incredibly difficult.

However, there are things you can do to deal with a PR crisis as a hospital without compromising the future representation of your organization, which we’re here to share with you today.

Respond Early

The truth is, traditional and modern healthcare news outlets won’t wait for an organization to respond before they start framing and releasing their stories to the public.

You might think you’re doing the right thing by not responding so wires don’t get crossed, especially ones that could leave you in legal trouble, but this can cause more harm than good.

Have you ever stopped to think about the agendas that the media have?

They aren’t out to serve their community by reporting the facts; they want a story that will sell their papers, or attract people to their websites.

By bringing a spokesperson for your website forward with a statement early on, you’re giving people the facts, and the media have something to work with that won’t damage your reputation.

Even if you aren’t able to provide a full statement for legal reasons, such as it being a breach of HIPPA, establishing some sort of contact with the media is essential.

We know finding people to handle the public relations side of things while your doctors and nurses focus on saving people isn’t always easy, which is why we recommend having a dedicated team to handle this side of things for you.

Use One Spokesperson

When you have a PR crisis, the media will want to speak to as many officials within your hospital as possible.

This will provide them with several different versions of events, allowing them to choose the story most likely to draw in traffic or sales of tomorrow’s newspapers.

Even during a crisis, however, it’s important not to give the media what they want.

Instead, shut down the multiple channels of communication and use one voice to represent your entire institution.

This will demonstrate to the media, and the general public, that you are confident about fixing the crisis, and have complete control over the situation.

Having one voice speak on behalf of your entire hospital will also make it easier to gather authorisation from all necessary parties, like lawyers and human resources, before a statement is made, preventing any potential blunders from occurring.

Trust us: there’s nothing more embarrassing than having to use one spokesperson to correct another later on in the crisis when incorrect information has been leaked to the media by mistake.

Apologize If Needed

This is the very thing lawyers will advise you against when you’re dealing with a PR crisis.

They have a good reason behind this, because in many states, apologizing is seen as admitting guilt, and could lead to the hospital being successfully sued in a malpractice suit.

However, more and more states are allowing physicians to apologize for making mistakes without this happening, so it’s worth checking to see if it applies in the state your hospital is in.

The truth is, the public want to see a human side to your hospital.

They don’t want you to quote clinical, official terms in their face that have no emotion attached to them; they want to know that you care.

By showing them that you do make mistakes and you can own up to these when they do occur, you’ll fix public relations far quicker than if you were to refuse to take any responsibility for the actions of those within your hospital.

Another great way to show the human nature of your hospital is to not only react from a PR perspective whenever you do damage control (which is what we’re focusing primarily in this article). If you want to know more about to proactively do PR check out this excellent in-depth guide from Digital Authority Partners which covers how most hospital should do PR to humanize a brand proactively.

Fight Back Against Injustice

Many hospital executives and public relations advisors will avoid setting the record straight when information is being incorrectly reported because they are worried about the backlash this could cause for their company.

The longer that you let this go on for—and it could last weeks if it’s a major case—the less chances you have of restoring your hospital’s reputation.

In fact, going and setting the record straight could build up a relationship between your hospital and local media reporters in the area, leading to kinder coverage of future PR crisis’.

Find Your Allies

You might think the easiest way to protect your hospital organization when a crisis occurs is to withhold as much information as possible, but this isn’t the case.

The truth is, during times of crisis, hospitals need to gather up all the goodwill and support that they can find.

The best way to gather momentum from those who believe in what the hospital does and how they do it is to be open about what you’re doing.

This will lead to something called “third party endorsement” or word of mouth, where the public start talking and sharing a message about the positives of your hospital.

This alone can be far more powerful than lots of other PR strategies during times of crisis.



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